CycleKyoto HP LInk

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Takase River Kyoto

Takase River Kyoto高瀬川京都

Parallel to the tree-lined street known as Kiyamachi in downtown Kyoto is a former working canal and now lovely river.

The Takase River was dug in 1611, primarily to transport goods to and from the center of Kyoto down to Fushimi and, farther south, Osaka.

The river is only several centimeters deep. In the past its waters were plied by "Takase Bune," small boats purpose-built to carry heavy loads in such conditions.

The canal begins at Kiyamachi - Nijo Dori and follows Kiyamachi Dori to a point below Shichijo Dori. From there it veers a bit towards the Kamo River.

South of Kyoto Station, it finally ends and joins the Kamo Rive near Jujo Dori.

With the advent of trains, however, its fortunes waned. In 1920, river traffic was ended. Part of the canal was then submerged and paved over.

What remains today is an elegant canal lined by willow trees that is full of bars and restaurants. The building pictured above is the former Rissei Elementary School building. It closed in 1993, and is now an arts center.


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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Shokokuji Temple Ukiyoe Exhibit

Shokokuji Temple相国寺浮世絵展覧会

Just behind Kyoto's Doshisha University is Shokokuji Temple.

It was founded in 1382 by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and is one of the "Kyoto Gozan": "five great Zen temples of Kyoto.

Shokokuki is also one of more than ten branches of the Rinzai school of Japanese Zen. It was completely destroyed in 1394 by fire. It was rebuilt thereafter - and has been rebuilt several times since.

Within the grounds of the temple complex is also a museum. It is currently showing a fine exhibit of ukiyoe wood block prints from the MKG (Museum fur Kunst und Gewebe), in Hamburg, Germany.

It features works by Hiroshige, Hokusai, Harunobu, and Kuniyoshi.


Shokokuji Jotenkaku Museum, 10:00-17:00 (last entry 16:30), ¥1000
May 21st – July 18th, July 23rd – September 11th
Tel: 075 231 0301


Shokokuji TempleCycleKyoto Home Page


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Go'o Shrine Kyoto

Go'o Jinja自転車で護王神社へ

Go'o Shrine, which is pronounced Go-oh, is a small shrine on Karasuma Dori across the street from the Imperial Palace in north-central Kyoto.

It is believed to enshrine Lord Wake no Kiyomaro. In 769 C.E., he foiled the plot of Yuge no Dokyo, an unsavory Buddhist priest, in the latter's attempt at ascending the imperial throne. 

For his heroics, however, Lord Kiyomaro was banished to what is now Kagoshima Prefecture, in deep southern Japan. On the way there he was attacked and wounded in the leg.

According to legend, while fleeing his attackers he made his way to Oita Prefecture along with 300 wild boars, which protected him. And then, miraculously, upon arrival his injuries were healed.

Thus, Go'o Shrine is even now visited by those with foot and leg and foot trouble.

Moreover, there are many many images of boar.


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Monday, June 27, 2011

Purple Flowers Ascending a Kyoto Machiya

House near Daitokuji Temple大徳寺の近くの町家

Outside a side entrance to Daitokuji Temple, in northern Kyoto, was this montage.

A potted purple flowered plant was climbing its way up a beam in front of a traditional home.

The dark wooden slats made for an ideal canvas.

The green leaves and, interspersed at both the bottom and top, the purple flowers were cooling on a mid-rainy season ride.


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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Kuheiji Hiraishi Inventor of First Bicycle


The forebear of the modern bicycle is thought to have been invented in Germany in 1817. The Draisine was made by Baron Karl von Drais, a civil servant to the Grand Duke of Baden.

However, partisans in Japan argue that the world's first bicycle was actually the brainchild of a Japanese feudal lord. Kuheiji Hiraishi who built a "bike" in 1732, in what is now Shiga Prefecture, which is adjacent to Kyoto.

According to Kenjiro Kawakami, a professor of industrial archeology at Tokyo's Tama University of the Arts, "...a bicycle with pedals existed in Japan by the 1730s..."

A "boat-style ground vehicle" made by a farmer in Saitama Prefecture already existed in the 1730s. One of Hiraishi's retainers, who was living at the clan's residence in Edo (Tokyo), saw and told his lord about it.

Hiraishi, himself an astronomer and accomplished scientist, redesigned and built his own boat-style ground vehicle in 1732.

The moving vehicle had a boat-shaped wooden body, one front wheel and two rear wheels. The pedals were connected to a disk akin to a flywheel with an iron rod like a crankshaft.

According to Professor Kawakami, it could run at about 14 kilometers (9 miles) per hour.


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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cycling North Kyoto Daitokuji Temple

Daitokuji Temple自転車で大徳寺へ

Daitokuji Temple was at first a small monastery, which was started in the early part of the 14th century by the monk Shuho Mocho.

In 1325, shortly thereafter, the monastery was converted into a facility for the imperial court.

As a result, it prospered. However, like much of the entire city of Kyoto, Daitokuji was burned in 1474 during the height of the Onin War.

Its fortunes rebounded in the sixteenth century, when Daitokuji came under the support military figures, who went on a building spree. In 1582, Oda Nobunaga, one of the contributors to the temple, was buried therein.

The temple also has enjoyed close ties to Sen no Rikyu, the tea master.

Today, the complex covers more than 50 acres and is perfect for a stroll or a slow bike ride.

If on a bike, it will be a bit bumpy. Most of the ground is covered in gravel; the path is stone, much of which can be cycled if carefully.


Daitokuji TempleCycleKyoto Home Page


Friday, June 24, 2011

Kyoto Kamo River From Sanjo Bridge

Kyoto Kamo River Sanjo三条大橋からの鴨川堤防

Looking north from the Sanjo Ohashi Bridge, one can see the newly completed walking path and grass planting.

Located on the west bank of the river, and just below the decks now out on the backs of the restaurants at left (they are set up every summer for dining under the stars), the new path is a hard sand base.

It is an attractive tan, flanked on both sides by green green grass.

We have our fingers crossed that workmen will appear and continue on south of Sanjo, Shijo, and deeper into south Kyoto.


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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kyoto Delivery Man Attacked by His Cart

Delivery Man Devoured By Cart京都佐川急便自転車事件

On a recent Sunday, a Kyoto delivery man was attacked and nearly devoured by his cart.

On a narrow downtown street while making his rounds and searching for a package in the depths of his cart, the delivery man was suddenly attacked.

The cart lunged suddenly, clamping its "jaws" down on the delivery man's unprotected head.

Fortunately for the driver, it had been raining and he was able to wriggle free and suffered only minor injuries.


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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Old Schwinn Bicycle in Kyoto

Old Schwinn in Kyoto京都にあるシュウイン自転車

This really brings us back.

Our first bike - the one under the Christmas tree circa 1971 in the old Victorian pile we lived in in Philadelphia - was a blue Schwinn.

Big wheels. Big fenders. Big tires. Thick cables. Heavy.

It must have weighed more than our six-year-old body did.

That sucker is still in mom and dad's basement, a bit rusty, but still street worthy.

This Schwinn was leaning against an old Kyoto home just north of City Hall. The only concession to the 21st century was a Cat Eye light.

Otherwise, it is nearly the same bike - three times bigger, of course - as the one we terrorized the old neighborhood with in the early 1970s.


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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Kyoto City Hall Hydrangea

Kyoto City Hall Hydrangea京都市役所紫陽花

In keeping with the season, rainy, Kyoto City Hall has placed two large arrangements of hydrangea in front of the main entrance.

Flanking the door, two planters filled to brimming with colorful hydrangea make a pleasant contrast to the dourness of the building.

The rainy season lasts from roughly the first week of June until mid-July.

At that time of year, the whole of Honshu comes alive with different varieties of hydrangea.


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Monday, June 20, 2011

Kyoto Gosho Imperial Palace

Gosho Imperial Palace京都御所

Smack in the middle of Kyoto is the massive rectangular park that was once home to generations of emperors.

Gosho, the Imperial Palace, is a huge green slab in the heart of Kyoto.

It is a park home to many trees, a few of the palaces - dating to the 19th century - baseball fields, tennis courts, and clean clean air.

The Palace grounds are 1.3 km north to south and 0.7 km east to west.

The Imperial Palace has been at its current location since the late 12th century. Prior to that, though, it was already the de facto residence of the emperors.

The grounds include many buildings, among them a Imperial Household Agency center. Here you apply for permission to Katsura Imperial Palace.

The tea "house" pictured above right is thought to have been built in the 19th century, and has several tatami tea rooms within. The moat below left is on the outside of this sub-compound.

It is located at the southern end of the park.

For cyclists, it presents challenges - most of it is gravel - and an opportunity. There are narrow paths worn into the gravel thanks to generations of cyclists. At night, when the moon is out and there is no one out, a slow ride through Gosho is bliss.


Gosho Imperial PalaceCycleKyoto Home Page


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Kyoto Cycling Chic

Very Cool Guy on Bicycle Kyoto京都自転車シック

Across the street from Kyoto City Hall, we found a hipster on a white Louis Garneau TRII cross bike.

A man of a certain age, he is shod in low-top dark green Chuck Converse sneakers, sporting slightly torn jeans, has his hair swept back, a salt-and-pepper goatee, a leather bag slung across his chest, and a dismissive stare.

Equipped with Shimano tourney seven speed gears, ALEX ACE24 RIM and ALLOY HUB wheels, and an aluminum frame that weighs in at 12.4 kg, he set off when the light changed.

With nary a word or nod exchanged, we parted ways. His hair blew behind him as he went around a corner.


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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ritsumeikan University Bicycle Lot Rules

Ritsumeikan University Bike Rule Sign立命館大学駐輪所の看板

A comical sign graces the front of a bicycle parking lot at Kyoto's Ritstumeikan University.

It presents a list of many verboten behavior.

Among them was a picture of two young thugs riding on a single bicycle.

Two to a bike is one of many prohibited but rarely enforced rules in Kyoto.

What is funny is the rendering of the two young men. They are straight out of Be Bop high school, 1950s era hooligans.

The popular manga series Be Bop High School ran in Weekly Young Jump and spawned many films.

The hair is the giveaway, and it is a safe bet that among the 12,000 or so students at Ritsumeikan today not one looks anything like these two.


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Friday, June 17, 2011

Kyoto Bicycle Bell

Kyoto bicycle bell京都自転車ベル

This off gold bell caught our eye in downtown Kyoto last weekend.

Attached to a simple stylish bike, the bell is well made and attractive.

On the silver handle is an engraved notation:


An online search produced nothing.


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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cycle Chionin Temple

Chion-in, Kyoto自転車で知恩院へ

Chionin Temple is the headquarters of the Jodo Shu (Pure Land) sect of Buddhism, and smack in the middle of many of Kyoto's best sites. It is easy to get to on foot or on a bike.

It was founded by Honen (1133–1212), and the large grounds include the place where he taught and later died from fasting.

It is due north of Maruyama Park and not far from Okazaki, home to Heian Shrine and several good museums.

Like the rest of Kyoto, Chionin suffered extensive damage during the Onin War. Two centuries later, several buildings were burnt down in 1633.

In more recent years, it was used during the filming of "The Last Samurai." Tom Cruise et al were filmed at Chionin in October 2002.

The most striking aspect to Chionin is its two-story San-mon (main gate). Once you pass through this, a steep flight of stairs awaits.

Another massive item in Chionin is its temple bell. At 74 tons, it is the largest in Japan..


400 Hayashishita-cho 3-chome, Yamato-oji, Higashi-hairu, Shimbashi Dori, Kyoto
Phone: +81 (0)75 531 2111
Hours: March-October: daily 9:00-4:30; November-February: daily 9:00-4:00.
Fee: ¥400


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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Kyoto Tower

Kyoto Tower京都タワー

Kyoto Tower is an observation tower located just across the from the north side of Kyoto Station.

It is the tallest structure in the city: the observation deck is 100 meters (328 feett) high and the spire measures in at 131 meters (430 feet).

The Tower was built in the early 1960s and opened in 1964 to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics.

Dating to 1868 - the year the Emperor moved from Kyoto to Tokyo - or earlier Kyoto has long suffered a Tokyo Complex. Thus, when Tokyo built its Tokyo Tower, the great minds in Kyoto decided they too had to have one to keep up and not appear backward.

The city's residents were overwhelmingly opposed to the construction of the tower, a massive white phallic slab of concrete that Alex Kerr has called a "stake through the heart" of the ancient city.

But, like so many other boondoggles, the project went ahead and stands today as a "symbol" of the city.

In a city of temples and hills, rivers and old machiya homes, a more out of place structure would have been hard to conceive.

However, it is a must-see for the thousands of junior high school students who flood the city on their annual tour.

The trinket shop on the first floor is always mobbed.


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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cafe Shizuka Kyoto

Cafe Shizuka喫茶静香

Cafe Shizuka is one of Kyoto's many classic coffee joints.

It is run by two women of more than a certain age, who are fetching and charming and reason enough to visit.

The cafe has been around for decades and does not seem to have changed much since then.

Aside from a tv that looked to be circa 1996, everything in the shop is from a different era: the floor tiles, booths, coffee grinders, register, wooden paneling.

It is not however a museum piece. The cafe was full on Saturday noon, and we were lucky to get into the last open booth.

It clearly has a loyal local following.


Cafe ShizukaCycleKyoto Home Page


Monday, June 13, 2011

Kyoto Alley Between Kawaramachi and Kiyamachi

Kyoto Alley京都河原町と木屋町の間の路地

Between Kawaramachi and Kiyamachi - two north-south streets in central Kyoto - is a grid of narrow alleys that connect them.

In typical Japanese fashion, the alley has a colorful mix of shops and restaurants.

The man standing at right is a tout for a brothel. On the left is a German themed restaurant. Farther up is a classic Kyoto cafe, Tsukiji.

Just off the main boulevard at the end of the alley is Kawaramachi, one of the main shopping streets in Kyoto. It is filled with middle-class people nicely dressed out for a day of shopping.

Many of them will dip into the alleys to find an offbeat shop, have a coffee, or perhaps enjoy some less salubrious service.


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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Japanese Chef Walking in Kyoto

Chef Walking in Kyoto京都で散歩中の日本板前

Just south of Oike Dori east of Teramachi, a Japanese chef is slowly strolling down a street.

In his white scrubs, he could be headed for a nuclear power plant, a surgical room, or back to his knives.

No rushing here.

The man is clearly on his break.


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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Kyoto Cityscape

Kyoto Cityscape京都の風景

Japanese are taught that Kyoto is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

It is not.

If the city were not so relentlessly promoted by Official Japan - in textbooks, by the Japan Travel Bureau, by Kyoto itself  - it might relax into itself a bit.

Kyoto does of course have pockets of serene beauty. The many world heritage sites come to mind, as do the many remaining traditional homes. The Kamo River remains a favorite escape, as are the mountains that surround the city.

However, the cityscape always brings you back to reality.

After a recent trip to Krakow, Poland - in whose Old City it is nearly impossible to take a bad photo - the shock of returning Kyoto was sharp.

The telephone poles and wires, the pachinko parlors - the signature architectural statement of post-War Japan - and "mansions," neon and mess of the place beg the eternal question:

If Kyoto is so serious, nay desperate, to earn money off the tourist won and yuan, euro and dollar, why have the many rules and building codes failed to create a more unified and beautiful look?

Photos from my grandparents' trip to Kyoto in 1978 are also revealing. In fedora and tie, floral print dress and handbag, Bob and Mildred - two 60-something Americans - wandered around ordinary streets snapping away on a simple Kodak.

Ordinary homes and streets were dignified and simple and heartbreakingly beautiful.


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Friday, June 10, 2011

Hiragiya Ryokan Kyoto

HIragiya Kyoto柊家旅館

Someday, some way.

Hiragiya Ryokan (inn) is one of the classic Japanese inns in Kyoto.

It was founded in 1818 and features Japanese-style rooms, most of which have a garden view.

The rooms come with Japanese wood baths made of aromatic fir.

Rates start at 32,000 per person per night based on double occupancy.

That includes dinner, breakfast, and service charges.

The odd photo was taken from Oike Dori, facing south towards the wall of the Main Facility.


Nakahakusancho, Fuyacho Anekoji-agaru, Nakagyo-ku,
Kyoto 604-8094, Japan

Phone:+81-(0)75-221-1136 Fax:+81-(0)75-221-1139


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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Inoda Cafe Sanjo Branch Kyoto

Inoda Cafeイノダコーヒー三条店

Around the corner from the main, original Inoda Coffee is another branch.

This branch, which is on Sanjo, is a bit less atmospheric than the original shop but the coffee is good and the location prime.

It is along the part of Sanjo between Teramachi and Karasuma, along with many other interesting shops and restaurants.

It is on the south side of the street, and instantly recognizable by its oversize red coffee grinder.

The pavement, moreover, has the name of the shop printed in bold letters (see below).


69 Masuyacho Higashi Hairu
Sanjo Sakaimachi

075 223 0171

Hours: 10:00~20:00

Inoda Cafe©

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Kyoto Fire Bucket

rain bucket Kyoto火災用バケツ

In front of many homes in Kyoto are red buckets.

They have the following kanji printed on them:


That is "shokayo," or fire prevention.

The bright red buckets make for an interesting contrast with the often traditional walls or doors.


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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Soware Cafe Kyoto

Soware Cafeカフェソワレ京都

One of the many old, funky cafes in Kyoto is Soware.

It is just north of Shijo Dori on a narrow street just west of Kiyamachi.

The street is full of seedy "shops" where various services can be purchased. Soware faces an outdoor smoking area next to the lovely canal that runs next to Kiyamachi.

Inside the cafe is a trip back in time. We are not sure exactly when but it is definitely not 2010. 1961 maybe?

The parfaits, coffee, and other items on the menu won't win any awards, but the whole experience - sitting in a dark old cafe redolent of another period - is worth whatever they charge you.

Shijo Kiyamachi Agaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
Tel: 075 221 0351

Tuesday - Saturday: 12 - 10 pm; Sundays and Holidays: 11 - 10 pm; closed Mondays


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Monday, June 6, 2011

Kyoto Bicycle Chic

Kyoto Cycle Chic自転車スタイル京都めちゃ格好いい

This guy is on his way to the Izumiya super market.

Wool cap, beach sandals, a backpack, a trainer complete his outfit.

Waiting for the light to change, he sits astride a small foldable (?) bike with stubby tires.

He will join the oba-chans (middle-aged ladies) and ossans (middle-aged guys) at the super market, jostling for cucumbers and tomatoes.


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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Kyoto Delivery Bicycle Nishijin

Delivery Bicycle Kyoto京都自転車宅急便

On the narrow streets of central Kyoto and a bit beyond, one can often find delivery riders.

This is the familiar green and yellow of Yamato Takyubin.

The men and women who ride these bikes use standard "mama chari" bikes with electric engines.

Behind the bike is a carrier with wheels that can hold a large number of boxes and packages. The container is water proof, and in recent days we have seen many of these hard-working people pedaling in the the pouring rain.

This guy was on a typical street south of Imadegawa and east of Senbon Dori in Nishijin.


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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Coasting through Nishijin Kyoto

Riding through Nishijin自転車で西陣を通る

Riding through Nishijin, the weaving district of Kyoto, with camera in hand, we shot this on the go.

The street, Teranouchi Dori, is actually quite attractive, in a Kyoto messy way.

The telephone poles and wires are hideous, but the streetscape itself is terrific and full of late afternoon life.

Teranouchi has many small, interesting temples, and the Orinasukan Handmade Fabrics Museum is just up and to the right from where this photo was taken.

The young man is just finding his groove as he begins to speed up a bit on the down slope just east of Senbon Dori.

In the distance, and headed towards the camera, is a mother, mask on; behind her on a smaller bike, a young girl is keeping pace.

It is evening, around 5 pm, so we are guessing the man is a college student on the way home. The woman and her daughter are perhaps going shopping for the evening meal.


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Friday, June 3, 2011

Tour de Kyoto Cycling Event Fushimi Inari Shrine

Torii Gates at Fushimi Inari Kyoto自転車で伏見稲荷@We Are One

We Are One will be leading a ride to Fushimi Inari Shrine this Sunday.


Date & Time: 5th June 2011 Sunday, 1400~1700
Participation fee: FREE
Route: Zen Cafe - Fushim Inari Shrine
Meeting point: Zen Cafe (depart at 1400 sharp)
 (besides Backpackers Hostel K's House Kyoto)
418 Nayacho, Shichijo-agaru, Dotemachi-dori, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto city, Japan 600-8142

*In the case of rain, the event will be postponed. An announcement will be made on this post 3 hours in advance in case the event is postponed.

日時:2011/6/5 (日) 14:00~17:00
参加費: 無料
ルート: Zen Cafe 伏見稲荷
集合場所 : Zen Cafe (この場所を14:00ちょうどに出発します) バックパッカーズホテルK's House Kyotoの横にあります。
〒600-8142 京都市下京区土手町通七条上る納屋町418


Renting a bicycle

Rental bikes are available at Kyoto Yuruchari Club from 1000 yen per day. Please indicate the type of bicycles you wish to rent in your RSVP - City Cycle, Special Class, Premier Class - reservations are limited to availability.

RSVP with participants' names, types and number of bicycles for reservation to




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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Rainy Day Cycling Kyoto

Rainy Day Cycling Kyoto雨の中自転車乗り京都

Rainy season has started in Kyoto.

That is more than two weeks earlier than usual.

It is a grim time for commuters, shoppers, and anyone who needs to get around on two wheels.

Riding in the rain strategies vary, and to varying degrees succeed or fail.

The full body gear of the cyclist above is keeping him dry - perhaps: that will depend on the material of the outfit - but underneath he is probably coated in a layer of sweat.

The man below left is riding illegally, and probably getting soaked to boot.

It is now against the law to ride holding an umbrella, or any other item, thus leaving the rider only one hand to navigate.

The cops though rarely if ever enforce this prohibition.

The umbrella he is using is made of clear plastic, so he has the advantage of being able to see - a bit.


Kyoto Bicycle Rainy DayCycleKyoto Home Page


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Osaka Woman Little Bo Peep

Osaka Woman大阪のロリコン

While leaving a high-end macaroon joint in the Mitsukoshi Department store in Osaka Station last weekend, we spied Little Bo Peep times two.

Except for the shepherd's crook, the two are spot on replicas of Little Bo Peep.

They busied themselves with their clothing, checking and rechecking their frills.

The look is called "Lolicon," which is short for a Lolita Complex.

And we are speechless.


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